The Voting Rights Project's Redistricting Program

--Click here to go to the Voting Right's Project's Redistricting Website--

What is redistricting?

Redistricting is the process of redrawing local, state, and congressional electoral districts in response to new census data to ensure that the districts have equal numbers of people.  Beginning in 2011, all states will start the process of reviewing newly released census data to determine how to redraw electoral lines to ensure compliance with the constitutional mandate of one-person, one-vote.

Why is redistricting important?

  1. Redistricting applies to all electoral boundaries.
  2. Redistricting often has a major impact on who wins elections, and so it affects all types of legislative decisions, such aspassing laws, providing funding, and approving projects within your community.
  3. Revised district boundaries usually remain in effect for ten years and citizen participation in the redistricting process is needed to ensure that the new boundaries provide fair electoral opportunities for all.

Ways You Can Get Involved

  • Learn who will decide which new boundaries are adopted: Focus on the right decision-makers.
  • Look for partners and identify your community of interest: There are many competing voices in redistricting and having partners who share your interests and goals can help your voice be heard.
  • Suggest improvements and identify problems: Decision-makers need to hear from you about how district boundaries treat your community.
  • Get needed technical support: Redistricting often involves complicated population and legal issues.  Proposed redistricting plans need to meet legal requirements and represent your community fairly.
  • Comment to the Department of Justice: If your state or county is covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, you will have 60 days to support or oppose a proposed redistricting plan after it has been submitted to DOJ for preclearance.

How the Lawyers' Committee Can Help You

The Lawyers' Committee can help you make the most of your involvement in the redistricting process by:

  • Providing detailed training materials tailored to your community.
  • Helping you and your partners find the best way to describe your community and what its members have in common.
  • Supporting your participation in the planning process through reviewing, creating, evaluating, and proposingredistricting plans.
  • Commenting on a plan submitted to the Department of Justice for Section 5 review.
  • Providing litigation support, when and if needed.

The Voting Rights Project staff of the Lawyers' Committee has decades of experience in voting rights advocacy and extensive knowledge of the redistricting process. 

The Redistricting Process

Step 1: Release of New Census Data: Between mid-February and April 1, 2011, the Census Bureau will release population counts to be used for redistricting.  

Step 2: Review of New Census Data: The new Census data will show whether districts need to grow or shrink in order to meet the constitutional requirements for population balance.

Step 3: Development of New Plans: A new set of district boundaries will be developed.  This may occur in a public forum or behind closed doors. There may be an official schedule for the process or the schedule may be informal.

Step 4: Public Comment: There are often public comment periods and public hearings before redistricting plans are officially adopted, but critical decisions may be made earlier.

Step 5: Department of Justice Review: The Justice Department will review thousands of redistricting plans under  the Voting Rights Act to determine whether they have a racially discriminatory purpose or effect. 

Step 6: Candidate Qualifying for the Next Election: When new district boundaries are being used they must be adopted (and if necessary precleared by DOJ) by the time candidate qualifying opens.  Some states will try to redistrict in time for their 2011 elections, but most states will use their new plans for the first time in the 2012 election cycle. 

Step 7: Litigation: Redistricting is often followed by lawsuits claiming that the adopted plan violates state or federal law.

Publications and Resources

Click here for the Lawyers' Committee's 2010 Redistricting Brochure.

Please click here to go directly to the Voting Rights Project's main Redistricting Website. 

If you would like to learn more about how to
get involved with the Voting Rights Project or its redistricting work,
please contact:

Practical Progressive - Official Selection 2008